Recently, a few parents approached me if I am currently providing tuition in EL since I taught English in a secondary school for the past 7 years. Though I am not providing this service at the moment, I decided to start a series of posts to provide EL tips to aid your child in this subject.
The first tool that I will be talking about is the Word Bank.
This particular exercise helps to increase the range of vocabulary. This list can consist of adjectives, adverbs and nouns. One of the oldest exercises in the book, primary school teachers usually encourage their students to fill in words that they come across during reading so that they can use at a later time. One useful site that I have come across is this where it separates word banks by themes for K-12 grades.
However, I noticed that most students tend to copy these vocabulary words blindly and often string a sentence of mumbo-jumbo in hopes that they will receive marks for vocabulary. It is often extremely clear to examination markers when a student is really trying to ‘wring it’. The sentences, more often than not, don’t make sense.
Most students tend to think that having a wide range of vocabulary is just knowing synonyms of a certain word and simply substituting one for the other. What most students don’t know is that these synonyms have varying intensity to express
So what does that mean? Does it mean that word bank doesn’t work?
Yes, it does. You just need to complement it with a word cline.
A word cline shows how related words are placed within a slope to show degrees intensity of strength when presenting an idea.
A simple example will be like this:
Instead of the usual “hot ” and “cold”, the word cline shows synonyms (related words) that can be used.
“Hot” – “warm, “burning”, “scorching”
“Cold” – chilly”, “freezing”
However, it does not end there. Using the slope, the words are placed to show HOW hot or cold each synonym truly describe.
Let’s use a more advance example – “Rich”.
In this example, the word “rich” takes on 4 different meanings. Starting with the least intense at the bottom, the presentation of its meaning increases as it moves up the ladder. In the thesaurus, the words may come under the same section. However, the intensity presented is different.
Thus, a way to truly understand and increase vocabulary words – create a word bank AND a word cline. This will help readers of your child’s/student’s work to truly understand the expression behind the idea it all. If your child/student is an extremely visual learner, this is a very good website to use for word cline. An online graphical dictionary, Visuwords shows how the words are related to one another.
Most couples enter into marriage expecting great sex to happen naturally. After all, how can sex not be great between two loving, consenting adults in a committed relationship? However, just as great marriages do not just happen, great sex does not just happen too. There will be certain seasons when sex is naturally not as high a priority in your marriage, for example, during the early days of parenting. However, long periods of neglecting your sex life can be detrimental to the health of your marriage. While it may sound unromantic to intentionally spice up your sex life, sometimes it is a necessary thing to do in order to keep the fire burning in your marriage.
Here are some tips to make great sex happen in your marriage:
Let’s talk about sex
Many people have the misunderstanding that their spouse should naturally meet all their sexual needs. However, no two individuals are the same and rather than leaving it to be a guessing game between you and your spouse, exercise initiative by communicating with your spouse about your sexual preferences and needs.
Married couples should feel safe to talk openly and honestly about their sexual likes and dislikes. Decide with your spouse that talking about sex will not be taboo in your marriage so that an open channel of communication can be established and awkwardness or fear can be abolished in all discussions about sex.
Make love, not war
Men and women are wired differently when it comes to sex. However, couples should learn to embrace these differences rather than allow the differences to become a source of conflict. Men desire the physical connection before they can connect emotionally with their wives. Women, on the other hand, seek the emotional connection before they are willing to connect physically.
When both parties recognise that sex is a gift to their marriage and choose to put the needs of the other party before their own, they will find themselves naturally satisfying their needs in the process of satisfying their spouse’s needs.
Stop and smell the roses
Just because you are now happily married to each other, the courtship does not end. Don’t allow complacency or busyness to cause your marriage to fall into a routine and become bored with each other. Seek out ways to keep the passion alive. Be creative and enjoy your love and sexual relationship.
Prioritise spending quality time with your spouse. If you have children, ensure that you put your spouse before your children. Arrange for a babysitter and go on a date if that is possible. If not, think of ways to date each other in the comfort of your home when the kids are asleep. Remember that a strong marriage is the best gift for your children.
Sex is the greatest natural intimacy builder in your marriage. Culture might tell you to settle for less than great sex in your marriage but it is not true! As you take time to discover each other sexually, the potential for greater intimacy and joy through the sexual bond will keep increasing over the years.
In part 3 of My Brilliant Brain, the documentary features Hungarian-born Chess Grandmaster Susan Polgar – the first woman to break the gender barrier in a formerly male-dominated game.
At the age of 4, Susan was an ordinary child with no remarkable genius abilities. It was the educational journey she embarked upon with her father, László Polgár, that would ultimately shape her brilliant brain.
László Polgár was a man with a plan. He believed that any child, given the right environment from young, could grow up to become a genius. Mozart was his inspiration – he noted that Mozart was given a rich musical environment from an early age which helped to bring out his musical genius. Polgár set out to prove his theory – but first he needed a child. His intention was to carry out his experiment with his own progeny so he sold his idea to a Ukrainian foreign language teacher to get her on board. When his first daughter, Susan, was born, he began to shape her early environment. Polgár believed that the key to genius was early intensive specialisation in a specific subject and that was exactly what he did with Susan.
When she was 4, Susan stumbled upon a chess board while looking for toys to play with. Not knowing the rules of chess, her mother directed her to her father and promised that he would teach her how to play when he got back from work. From that day forwards, Polgár used chess as the subject for Susan’s early intensive specialisation. After 6 months of training, Polgár took little Susan to the local chess club where she played against aged men and beat them hands-down. She went on to dominate the girls’ under 11 chess tournament.
Polgár had two other girls after Susan. When they were old enough, Polgár allowed them into the room where Susan received her intensive chess training on condition that they, too, learned how to play. Having watched their older sister devoting hours, day after day, to the game of chess, they became eager and willing participants.
The interesting thing about Chess is that it is usually male-dominated. This is because the game of chess favours the abilities of the male brain – visual-spatial processing. By beginning their chess lessons early, the Polgár sisters were able to bridge this gap between the male and female brain by developing their visual-spatial processing centers.
The conclusion of this documentary is essentially what Malcolm Gladwell highlighted in his book “The Outliers” – what you need to become great is practice – lots and lots of it, like 10000 hours or so. After a while, the many hours of practice will level out the “talent”. They demonstrated this point by performing an experiment on Susan. While seated at a cafe, a truck drives past her. On the side of the truck is chess board of a game in progress. Susan has a 3-second view of the board before she is asked to reconstruct the chess board that she saw on the truck by placing the chess pieces on a board in the positions that they were shown on the truck. She does so – perfectly.
The human brain can only remember about 7 pieces of information at a time. So how is Susan able to remember where all the chess pieces were after glancing at the picture for 3 seconds? Because of the many hours Susan spent practicing, studying and playing chess, she had memorised tens of thousands of chess configurations. Instead of seeing a board with chess pieces placed randomly, she recognised patterns. She could break the board up into chunks so that all she had to remember were 5 chunks of information.
To prove the point, Susan is shown a second picture of a chess board with chess pieces placed randomly by a non-chess player. Because the chess pieces were now in positions they would never really appear in a real game, Susan has trouble remembering where each piece should be. She could no longer rely on her vast collection of chess board configurations to help her remember the placements of the pieces. Her amazing achievements in chess are the result of years and years of deliberate practice.
So what you need to raise a genius is:
focus on a specific subject
practice, practice, practice
Another point I will add is personal interest – you need your child to be interested because he has to be the driver for his own practice. Without your child’s willingness to practice, it is impossible to achieve such success.
In recent years, because of the popularity of Singapore math books being promoted and used in many countries, suddenly local publishers seemed to have been hit by an aha! moment. They realized that it’s timely (or simply long overdue?) that they should come up with a general or pop book on the Singapore’s model (or bar) method for the lay public, especially among those green to the problem-solving visualization strategy.
A Monograph à la Singapour
The first official title on the Singapore model method to hit the local shelves was one co-published by the Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE) and Panpac Education, which the MOE christened a “monograph” to the surprise of those in academia. Thank God, they didn’t call it Principia Singapura!
This wallet-unfriendly—over-promise, under-deliver— title did fairly well, considering that it was the first official publication by the MOE to feature the merits of the Singapore’s model method to a lay audience. Half of the book over-praises the achievements of the MOE in reversing the declining math performance of local students in the seventies and eighties, almost indirectly attributing Singapore’s success in TIMMS and PISA to the model method, although there has never been any research whatsoever to suggest that there is a correlation between the use of the model method and students’ performances in international comparison studies.
Busy and stressed local parents and teachers are simply not interested in reading the first part of this “monograph”; they’re looking for some practical teaching strategies that could help them coach their kids, particularly in applying the model method to solving word problems. However, to their utter disappointment, they found out that assessment (or supplementary) math books featuring challenging word problems are a better choice in helping them master the problem-solving strategy, from the numerous graded worked examples and detailed (and often alternative) solutions provided—and most of them cost a fraction of the price of the “monograph.”
A Missed Opportunity for a Better Strategy
Not long after the MOE’s publication, the Singapore public was spoilt with another local title on the bar method. Unfortunately, the editorial team working on Bar Modeling then didn’t take advantage of the lack of breadth and depth of the MOE’s “monograph” to offer a better book in meeting the needs and desires of local parents and overseas math educators, especially those not versed with the bar model method.
Based on some investigation and feedback why Dr. Yeap Ban Har didn’t seize the opportunity to publish a better book than the one co-published by the MOE, it sounds like Dr. Yap had submitted his manuscript one or two years prior to the MOE’s publication, but by the time his publisher realized that the MOE had released a [better?] book similar to theirs, they had little time to react (or maybe they just over-reacted to the untimely news?); as a result, they seemed to have only made some cosmetic changes to the original manuscript. Sounds like what we call in local educational publishing as an example of “editors sitting on the manuscript” for ages or years only to decide publishing it when a competitor has already beaten them to the finishing line.
This is really a missed opportunity, not to say, a pity that the editorial team failed to leverage on the weaknesses or inadequacies of the MOE title to deliver a better book to a mathematically hungry audience, at an affordable price.
Is Another Bar Model Method Book Needed?
Early this year, we’re blessed with another title on the bar method, and this time round, it’s reasonably affordable, considering that the contents are familiar to most local teachers, tutors, and educated parents. This 96-page publication—no re-hashed Dr. Kho articles and authors’ detailed mathematical achievements—comprises four topics to showcase the use of the model method: Whole Numbers, Fractions, Ratio, and Percentage.
As in Dr. Yeap book, the questions unfortunately offer only one model drawing, which may give novices the impression that no alternative bar or model drawings are possible for a given question. The relatively easy questions would help local students gain confidence in solving routine word problems that lend themselves to the model method; however, self-motivated problem solvers would find themselves ill-equipped to solve non-routine questions that favor the visualization strategy.
In the preface, the authors emphasized some pedagogical or conceptual points about the model method, which are arguably debatable. For example, on page three, they wrote:
“In the teaching of algebra, teachers are encouraged to build on the Bar Model Method to help students and formulate equations when solving algebraic equations.”
Are we not supposed to wean students off the model method, as they start taking algebraic food for their mathematical diet? Of course, we want a smooth transition, or seamless process, that bridges the intuitive visual model method to the abstract algebraic method.
Who Invented the Model method?
Because one of the authors had previously worked with Dr. Kho Tek Hong, they mentioned that he was a “pioneer of the model method.” True, he was heading the team that made up of household names like Hector Chee and Sin Kwai Meng, among others, who helped promote the model method to teachers in the mid-eighties, but to claim that Dr. Kho was the originator or inventor of the bar method sounds like stretching the truth. Understandably, it’s not well-known that the so-called model method was already used by Russian or American math educators, decades before it was first unveiled among local math teachers.
I’ll elaborate more on this “acknowledgement” or “credit” matter in a future post—why the bar model method is “math baked in Singapore,” mixing recipes from China, US, Japan, Russia, and probably from a few others like Israel and UK.
Mr. Aden Gan‘s No-Frills Two-Book Series
Let me end with two local titles which I believe offer a more comprehensive treatment of the Singapore model method to laypersons, who just want to grasp the main concepts, and to start applying the visual strategy to solving word problems. I personally don’t know the author, nor do I have any vested interest in promoting these two books, but I think they’re so far the best value-for-money titles in the local market, which could empower both parents and teachers new to the model method to appreciate how powerful the problem-solving visualization strategy is in solving non-routine word problems.
A number of locals may feel uneasy in purchasing these two math books published by EPH, the publishing arm of Popular outlets, because EPH’s assessment math books are notoriously known to be editorially half-baked, and EPH every now and then churns out reprinted or rehashed titles whose contents are out of syllabus. However, my choice is still on these two wallet-friendly local books if you seriously want to learn some basics or mechanics on the Singapore model (or bar) method—and if editorial and artistic concerns are secondary to your elementary math education.
Curriculum Planning & Development Division Ministry of Education, Singapore (2009). The Singapore model method. Singapore: EPB Pan Pacific.
Gan, A. (2014). More model methods and advanced strategies for P5 and P6. Singapore: Educational Publishing House Pte. Ltd.
Quite often, Primary 5 and 6 students find that 50 minutes for Mathematics Paper 1 is a rather short time to complete the paper comfortably. One of the common causes is that many of these students solve MCQs in the same ways that they would solve other word problems.
Given that only 1 in 4 options of an MCQ is the answer, there are time-saving shortcuts that students can employ to answer MCQs.
Recently, the Ministry of Education announced new changes to the PSLE marking scheme which will be implemented in 2021. With the introduction of Achievement Levels (ALs), it will be easier for children to achieve the required score to enter into the school of their choice.
The drawback to the new scheme is that more students will eventually achieve the required AL score for entry into the popular schools which can result in a case of demand exceeding supply. This fear may push more parents to embark on the Direct School Admissions route thus increasing competition in this area.
Starting from 2017, there will be drastic changes in the domains offered for DSA. General Academic domain will be taken away with more emphasis on talent, sports and niche areas. This year, we have seen some changes taking place with various IP schools.
Moving forward, these are some steps parents must be prepared to take in order to help their children get a confirm offer from 2017 onwards:
Enrollment in Communication courses.
This is a life skill that will come in handy in many ways. The final stage of DSA is the interview. Being able to express oneself succinctly is crucial when it comes to impressing the interviewers. Students must not only answer interview questions but also be able to hold their own during discussions on current affairs topics and even debate on issues if needed. (When enrolling for a communication course, make sure that the certificate received is recognized internationally and by MOE. Trinity College Communication Skills Graded Examination is highly recommended).
Practise expository writing
More schools requires students to write a piece of essay responding to a question given as part of the selection process. Most primary schools teach narrative writing but never expository essays. The purpose of the expository essay is to explain a topic in a logical and straightforward manner. Some past questions given by some of the IP schools are as follows:
What do you think of PSLE? What changes would you recommend?
Write an essay about the importance of values.
What is your idea of an ideal secondary school?
“Academic achievements guarantee success. Do you agree?”
Practise comprehension reasoning
If your child has time to focus on only one segment of the English paper, it has to be reading comprehension. As for the types of questions they must learn to answer, it is definitely inference questions. More schools require students to take an English test and it is always a comprehension test.
Attend Maths Olympiad courses or practise math reasoning worksheets
For some of the IP schools, a strong foundation in Maths reasoning is crucial. Maths reasoning test is a requirement for some of the IP schools.
Practise non-verbal reasoning worksheets. You can find these on the internet or purchase some IQ books that has such questions. GAT test is compulsory for many IP schools. This year some of the schools even insisted that GEP students take the test.
Take up a sport CCA, performing arts CCA or develop a talent (dance, music, visual arts, public speaking, debate, etc)
Participate in as many academic or non-academic competitions – International, National, Zonal and school-base.
Take up a leadership position in school. (class monitor, Head-prefect, Vice-head prefect, prefect, school counselor and CCA chair or vice-chair) Such leadership positions always gets you to the front of the queue when it comes to DSA.
Value in Action hours. Volunteering and helping out in school will go a long way in helping your child beef up his/her portfolio.
Awards, Awards and more Awards. Every opportunity your child has to acquire an award through school or outside of school will go a long way to attracting the IP school’s attention. At the end of the day, the more you can contribute to the success of the school, the more they want you.
One final word of advice, don’t wait till you child is in Primary 6 to check out IP schools. Start doing your research when your child is in Primary 3 or 4 as that will give you 2 to 3 years to get them ready for DSA.
If all of this seems too tedious and time consuming, there is always the PSLE option which means your child can just focus on academics and there is really nothing wrong with that.
Splinter skills – obsessive preoccupation with, and memorization of, music and sports trivia, license plate numbers, maps, and historical facts.
Talented savants – “cognitively impaired persons in whom the musical, artistic, or other special abilities are more prominent and highly honed, usually within an area of single expertise, and are very conspicuous when viewed in contrast to overall disability”.
Prodigious savants – “extraordinarily rare individuals for whom the special skill is so outstanding that it would be spectacular even if it were to occur in a non-impaired person”.
Music – playing in perfect pitch, being able to play multiple instruments (as many as 20).
Art – usually in drawing, painting or sculpting.
Calendar calculating – for instance being able to determine the day of the week any particular date falls on.
Mathematics – for instance, lightning calculating.
Mechanical or spatial skills – for instance, the ability to measure distances precisely without the use of measuring instruments, the ability to construct complex models with accuracy, the mastery or mapmaking and direction-finding.
There are other skills such as the polyglot ability (prodigious language capabilities), synesthesia, appreciation for time without a watch, and outstanding knowledge in particular fields of study. Regardless of the skills present in each individual, all savants have a prodigious memory.
Some prodigious savants:
Kim Peek – mentally and physically handicapped but able to read 500 pages a minute and has memorised 9000 books (at the time the documentary was created).
Leslie Lemke – blind and mentally disabled but able to play back a piece of music after only hearing it once even though he never learned music.
Psychologist Darold Treffert states that prodigious savants are born with the knowledge they never learned. Neurologist Joy Hirsch scans the brain of George Widener to understand more about what’s different about a savant’s brain. Hirsch found that George’s brain was structurally the same as any other individual. What was different was the wiring. When performing certain tasks, the areas of activity were not where they were expected – areas that should have been active were not and areas that were not expected to be active were. In short, a savant’s brain has been mis-wired – but how?
Darold Treffert believes it begins in utero when the two hemispheres of the brain are forming. Each half is responsible for different functions – the left is the domain for language and logical thinking, while the right is the domain for art, math and music (the talents commonly observed in savants). In utero, the right hemisphere reaches completion first while the left hemisphere is susceptible to the flood of testosterone which interferes with the wiring of the brain. This results in a compromised left hemisphere leaving the right hemisphere free of its logical influence.
Professor Allan Snyder states that in order to access these savant abilities, what we need is not a better brain but a brain with less. He cites the example of a young autistic girl who demonstrated remarkable artistic abilities. She was late in the development of language but once she did, she lost her artistic ability. It is the presence of our higher brain functions that prevent access to these abilities. Only with the suppression of the higher brain functions – such as in autistic individuals or in individuals with brain injuries – can the potential be unlocked.
Snyder’s belief that we all possess these capabilities (but are merely unable to consciously access them) is supported by individuals like Tommy McHugh who discover their savant abilities later in life following some sort of brain injury. Tommy, who had never held a paintbrush before in his life, discovered his hidden artistic talents after suffering a stroke. I thought it was interesting that Tommy also developed a talent for writing in prose – something I noticed that went hand in hand with child prodigy Akiane‘s artistic talent for she, too, was not only an artist but a poet as well. Is there a link between the ability to paint and the creativity to write poetry? Food for thought…
Here’s another thought – is it possible to release the creativity of the right brain from the dominant logic of the left? Snyder created a “thinking cap” that utilises Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to block the electrical impulses in the left hemisphere, thereby freeing the more creative right hemisphere for expression.
In the documentary, Snyder tests a subject before and after wearing the thinking cap on the following:
Reading a well-known proverb deliberately printed with a grammatical error:
A bird in the
the hand is worth
two in the bush.
Drawing a horse.
Estimating the number of dots on a screen (20 questions).
The test subject’s results before and after wearing the thinking cap:
Before wearing the cap, he misses the grammatical error. After wearing the cap, he spots the grammatical error.
Before wearing the cap, he draws a very basic and simple horse outline. After wearing the cap, his horse is more detailed and artistic.
Before wearing the cap, he is hesitant in his estimates and gave round numbers, e.g. 160, 100, etc. Out of 20 questions, he got 2 correct. After wearing the cap, he was more confident and specific with his answers, e.g. 62, 103, etc. Out of 20 questions, he got 8 correct.
Unfortunately, the effects of the thinking cap were not permanent. The benefits were gone after an hour. You can watch the segment on Snyder’s thinking cap test in the following video:
Most of us may not admit it, but we’ve all fallen victim to the lure of innumeracy—the mathematical equivalent of illiteracy—consciously or unconsciously. Here are twenty of my favorite innumerate events I often witness among my numerate and semi-numerate friends, colleagues, and relatives.
• Taking a 45-minute train journey to save a few dollars at Carrefour or Walmart.
• Lining up for hours (or even days, if you’re in China?) to buy an iPhone or iPad.
• Paying a numerologist or geomancy crank to divine your “lucky” and “unlucky” days.
• Visiting a feng-shui master to offer advice how best to arrange your furniture at home, or in your office, to ward off negative or “unwanted energies.”
• Buying similar items in bulk at discounted prices, which you don’t need but because they’re cheap.
• Offering foods to idols [aka gods and goddesses] in the hope that they’ll bring you good luck and prosperity in return.
• Canceling all major business dealings, weddings, or product launches during the Ghost(or Seventh) Month.
Now is your turn to share with the mathematical brethren at least half a dozen of your pet innumerate activities—those numerical idiocies or idiosyncrasies— that you (or your loved ones) were indulged in at some not-too-distant point in the past.